Belfast Telegraph

Facebook sued by dissident group Saoradh over removed pages

Precedent: Darragh Mackin
Precedent: Darragh Mackin
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A political party representing dissident republicans is taking legal action against Facebook over claims it removed pages from its platform.

Saoradh, which was formed in 2016 and which the police say is closed aligned to the New IRA, accused the social media giant of political discrimination.

The group, which campaigns for the release of all republican prisoners, also claimed that MI5 and the PSNI exerted pressure on the company to remove the pages.

A Belfast-based law firm is seeking a court order bid to force the website to reinstate a number of pages.

In a letter to Facebook, it is claimed the decision to remove the pages was taken "due to our client's particular political view".

The letter says the company removed Saoradh's main party page, as well as others operated by branches in Belfast, Dublin, Newry and Derry, during the past six months.

The letter states this is a breach of the right to the freedom of expression, as set out in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said Facebook had removed what it deemed to be unacceptable political messages. "That sets a very dangerous precedent, and it's a deliberate attack on the freedom of expression," he added.

"Therefore, our clients have no alternative but to seek injunctive relief to compel Facebook to uphold what is a very basic principle - the right to a political opinion and the right to expression.

"Our clients have grave concerns that there are third parties at play.

"Given the fact that the police and security service are known to monitor and intercept communications, I think it's implausible to believe (anyone) other than the security service would have made representations to Facebook because no reasonable excuse has been given as to why our client's page has been taken down."

Saoradh has been highly critical of Sinn Fein in the past.

Last March, Facebook said the content of the organisation's pages repeatedly broke community standards and Saoradh "repeatedly posted content designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups".

Facebook said it could not comment "as this is a legal matter", but it confirmed it had received a letter of complaint from lawyers acting for Saoradh.

Far right group Britain First is engaged in similar legal action against the social media giant to have its party page and those of its leaders, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, reinstated.

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